A PARAMEDIC from Wrexham and his colleague have been hailed heroes after saving the life of a man who had suffered a cardiac arrest at the wheel.
John Lawson, 65, of Beaumaris, Anglesey, and his friend and employer Freddie were driving on the A494 near Corwen returning from delivering some pigs they reared on Freddie’s land to the abattoir, when John complained of feeling unwell.
John said: “I attempted to pull the car and trailer over to the side of the road but fell unconscious and Freddie was forced to pull the handbrake to stall the vehicle and put the hazard warning lights on.”
Little did they know that help was only 30 seconds behind in the shape of Welsh Ambulance Service paramedic Ciara Bollard, 31, and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Geraint Lloyd, 34, from Wrexham, who are based in Corwen.
The crewmates had been working a busy night-shift together and were running over an hour late returning to base after a last-minute job took them to Glan Clwyd Hospital.
“It was a damp and foggy morning,” said Ciara.
“We were on our way back to base on one of only two routes and ordinarily would have gone the other route, but that day we went on the A494.”
Geraint said: “It had been a long busy night and through the fog we saw a 4×4 and trailer in front of us stopped in the middle of the road with the other lane blocked also.
“We thought, ‘hey up what have we got here?’.
“That’s when a gentleman came running up to the cab window screaming ‘my friend is having a heart attack’.”
Geraint and Ciara ran over to the car to assess the patient and begin their observations – it was clear John was in cardiac arrest.
Ciara ran back to the ambulance to fetch their defibrillator and other equipment whilst Geraint and Freddie got John out the car and began manual Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).
“I’ve never seen anybody move so fast, Freddie was unhooking the seatbelt and beginning to move John out the car in a flash so we safely got him on the ground,” said Geraint.
“There was no respiratory response and no response in the pupils, so I did CPR for around a minute and when Ciara arrived back we cut his clothes open and gave him one shock with the defibrillator.”
Ciara said: “Almost immediately John snapped back to life and began babbling words, repeating ‘my wife is going to kill me for this’.
“After another set of observations we were able to call a back-up crew from Bala to get him to hospital in Wrexham.
“Everything had gone John’s way that day and I said to him; ‘Somebody was watching over you, today was not your day to go’.”
Whilst completing the second set of observations, the crew asked him if he’d had any other problems.
“He just blurted out ‘heart failure’ when we asked him,” said Geraint.
It would transpire that about a year ago John had suffered heart failure due to fluid retention and started a gym programme to help keep him fit on top of his manual job.
This time however it turned out to be an electrical failure in the heart.
In a further twist of fate, due to Covid-19, John and Freddie were due to travel in separate cars that day but made a last minute decision to car-share and wear face coverings.
“Things could have been so different if we were in separate cars,” said John, now recovering after having a pacemaker fitted at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
“I could have lost control and had a crash and I don’t like to think what could have happened.
“I had a good laugh with the hospital staff when they were fitting my pacemaker as it was only local anaesthetic, and all the staff there were wonderful.
“But I really want to thank Ciara and Geraint for saving my life, I don’t know how to put it in to words.
He added: “The fact they were running late, the fact they came on that road and the fact that Freddie and me were in the same car… it’s a miracle.
“Apart from some sore ribs I’m feeling absolutely fine. I did break my spectacles though and Ciara did a fantastic job on my coat!”
Ciara has been a paramedic for two years and Geraint an EMT for four years but both admitted to never seeing an incident like this
“We’ve done some big jobs together and this was the first time I’d been involved with a successful resus from cardiac arrest. It was amazing how quickly and well he came around,” said Ciara.
Geraint added: “To get this result and in such circumstances was a great way to finish a night shift.
“I was buzzing afterwards and luckily had two rest days ahead of me as there was no way I’d sleep that day.”
John is now resting at home on doctor’s orders but keen to get back to work and an active life as soon as he can.
“I’ve got no intention of stopping,” he said.
“My wife is a retired A&E nurse so I’m in good hands and she’ll keep me in check but I do look forward to getting back to work as I’m not much good at sitting still.”